Nat Geo editor began as an environmental science major

Story by Natasya Ong, NewsNetNebraska

Christine Dell’Amore first described journalism as “intense.” Now, she’s the online natural history editor for National Geographic.

Christine Dell’Amore has been an editor for 10 years. Photo courtesy of Christine Dell’Amore, National Geographic.

Dell’Amore, who is currently residing in Washington, D.C., was originally from Columbia, Maryland. She started out pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Maryland but decided to change majors along the way.

“It was too intense for me,” she said. “The program was really focused on getting an internship and doing journalism right away and I was 18 and it wasn’t really the right fit. I was just not mature and not ready for it yet.”

Dell’Amore had always gravitated toward nature, animals and the environment so, she ended up switching her major to environmental science.

“It was actually a really good decision because it was a more grounded and less intense major,” she said.

However, she still had a strong passion for journalism. After her degree, she pursued her master’s in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The university program specializes in environmental reporting. It was the perfect fit for Dell’Amore because she was able to integrate her interest in the environment with writing and reporting.

Along the way, she wrote and edited for the Smithsonian magazine, Washington Post and United Press International (UPI). At UPI, Dell’Amore was writing and editing stories about consumer health. This provided her with a good foundation in daily news journalism. “I had a lot of different hats,” she said. “I just had a really good training in writing fast and well.”

After working at UPI for a year, she applied to work at National Geographic and has been working there ever since.

Every day, she starts off at 9:30 a.m. with plans for what she has to do for the day which usually means writing or editing a story about animal biology, conservation or on a new species.

National Geographic covers stories from around the world. The majority of its readers are from different countries outside of the United States. Stories that happened outside of the United States also produce higher readership.

For example, she said that a story about rhino poaching in South Africa attracts more readership as compared to a story about grizzly bear conservation in Alaska. The readers are more internationally focused and come from other different countries.

Dell’Amore said when it comes to topical writing such as history or the environment, it is important for both the reporter and the editing to have some knowledge about the topic. “As someone who has a specialty in animal science and wildlife writing, it is important to know about the basics of what you’re writing about,” she said.

The basics include the process scientists use when conducting a study, knowing animal behaviors and the types of animals that are out there, she said. “All of those things help me make decisions every day about what stories I’m going to cover and what stories I think readers are going to be most interested in,” she said. “And it helps you become a better reporter and writer.”

Being knowledgeable about the topic is even more important as an editor. In every newsroom, the editor is the gatekeeper of stories. It is their job to not only ensure that the message and information is clear, but also to fact-check.

“If there is some failure in the writer’s logic or there’s some concept is missing in the writer’s draft, the editor’s job is to find that,” she said. “So if the editor has absolutely no understanding of the scientific method or doesn’t know anything about cheetahs, for example, or anything about African wildlife and there’s a story about that, it can be problematic because things can get through that normally wouldn’t.”

One of the biggest struggles as an editor is the ability to produce high quality, well-written and well-sourced story done in a very fast paced environment especially for online content, she said.

“It is really difficult being able to write something that’s really well written that has good sources quickly and get it up there and know that a lot of people around the world are going to read that as their main source of information,” she said. “So, you’ve got to make sure that you have quality but in a quick way.”

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